All posts tagged: Navy SEALs

What Al-Qaeda Did to Fallujah, Hamas Did to Gaza

What Al-Qaeda Did to Fallujah, Hamas Did to Gaza

Twenty years ago, on what looked like a movie set built in the Quantico woods, I learned how to fight in a city. This faux city was called “MOUT Town.” MOUT—Military Operations in Urban Terrain—is U.S. military-speak for high-intensity urban combat, like what’s unfolding in Gaza. Tactically, MOUT was very different from the traditional combat we’d already studied in the Marine Corps. The urban battlefield was highly constricted; streets and buildings funneled us into close quarters with our enemy. Beyond every corner, window, or doorway lurked a potential ambush. Most notably, and adding a specific and complex layer to this type of warfare, civilians blended with adversaries, all played by instructors who ambushed us with paintball guns. Casualty rates in urban warfare far exceed those of other forms of combat, a fact reinforced by the dime-size paintball welts that covered my body by the end of MOUT week. Less than a year later, in November 2004, I found myself leading a 46-man rifle platoon into Fallujah, in Iraq. This battle pitted 13,000 Marines and soldiers …

The Hard Lesson of Mogadishu

The Hard Lesson of Mogadishu

Thirty years ago today, the U.S. military was involved in a brief but brutal battle in Somalia. In a series of firefights over two bloody days, 18 members of America’s most elite Special Forces and hundreds of Somali militiamen were killed. This was the Battle of Mogadishu, which the journalist Mark Bowden (now an Atlantic contributing writer) famously reported for The Philadelphia Inquirer and later adapted as the book and the film Black Hawk Down. Although the American units involved fought courageously, and inflicted heavy losses on their adversaries, the Battle of Mogadishu exposed significant weaknesses in U.S. Special Operations Forces’ capability. The televised images of dead Americans being dragged down dusty streets were scarring not only for the Clinton administration, and the American public viewing them on the evening news, but also for the units themselves. As painful as defeats are, lost battles can end up being the greatest teachers for military organizations. The battle marked an important waypoint in the evolution of our Special Operations Forces, and to this day carries important lessons …